Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

April 11, 2017

University Assembly Votes to Improve Web Accessibility

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The University Assembly passed a resolution confirming Cornell’s commitment to web accessibility and resolved to “set, publish and disseminate to all levels of University personnel an accessibility policy on the domain,” during the meeting Tuesday.

“What we are looking here is a resolution to better fit Cornell’s values,” said Jeramy Kruser, Employee Assembly representative. “The objective is to get us to a point where we can actually say ‘any person, any study’ from a digital perspective.”

Kruser, who sponsored the resolution, initially hoped every university site will adhere to 85 percent of the web accessibility standards on average, as established by section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the WCAG 2.0 AA standards of the Web Accessibility Initiative.

“There’s no site that is 100 percent accessible, and that is not the expectation,” Kruser said. “Instead, we look at the extent to which sites conform to a level of conformance [to web accessibility standards], and if you pass this line you are no longer in conformance and you must fix your site to conform with standards.”

Since applying a web accessibility initiative to an existing site can be excessively burdensome to the University, the resolution “only applies to websites newly created after the implementation of the policy, or sites that have been significantly revamped,” Kruser said.

This is not the first web accessibility initiative passed by an assembly, according to Ulysses Smith, chair of the Employee Assembly.

“The Employee Assembly actually passed this resolution last semester,” Smith said. “The office of the president is already considering it. There is already some groundwork being done.”

Following the E.A.’s footsteps, the U.A. passed the resolution with 14 for the initiative, 0 against, and 2 abstains — a decision Smith said was long overdue.

“There are so many institutions, public and private, that have already entered into settlement agreements because of poor web accessibility,” Smith said. “I know this [resolution] is a hefty thing but we are really behind the times on this.”

Kruser hopes that this resolution will pave the way for even more ambitious accessibility policy for the disabled.
“I specifically calculated this [resolution] to be the very smallest, most incremental step forward because some of the omnipass resolutions that we tried in the past has failed,” Kruser said. “I’m moving just a tiny bit forward to make way for a range of broader accessibility policy.”